Coaching Your References

Most every company will want to check your references at some point.  As a job seeker, you know they’ll ask for those names, but how can you help your references really make you stand out?  Let’s take a look.
Before I go further, it’s critical that you contact people to ask whether they’ll serve as a reference.  Let me share a quick story about that.  Years ago I’d worked with a woman.  After we’d both left our employer I received a call from HR asking for a reference.  The HR person mentioned the woman’s name, but I didn’t recognize it.  Not only had the job seeker failed to ask whether I’d be a reference, but she’d remarried since I’d worked with her, so her “new” name wasn’t familiar to me.
How can we “coach” our references?  For starters, contact your references to share the position you’re interested in.  It’s a great way to “touch” those references and stay front of mind with them.
Here’s what’s in play.  You want your references to help separate you from the others the employer might be interviewing.  You might think that once the employer checks your references it’s just a formality.  In other words, they want you and, barring something bad from your references, they’ll make you an offer.
That’s not true.  Even with today’s climate where it’s harder to get straight answers from former employers, whenever an employer can get more than, “xxx worked these dates for us,” it really counts for something.
Coaching a reference means telling your reference about the skills/experiences the employer is looking for.
Beyond that, I’d ask my potential new employer whether they’d like me to arrange that reference call.  Here’s why.  People are busy.  I want to ensure my reference call takes place in a timely manner without a game of phone tag.
Allow me to get a date/time for my reference to call the employer.  Think about that for a moment.  The employer needs to knock out this call.  Wouldn’t it be nice if they (the employer) could expect a call?  You bet!
Arranging the call means my reference won’t be distracted.  Otherwise they might be traveling or otherwise tied up with business.
After that reference contact takes place I’ll want to know how it went.  Call your reference to understand what was discussed.  Did the employer voice any concerns?  This will give me ammunition as I conduct follow up with the company.
References mean more today than in the past.  No longer does a company hone in on one candidate and hire them if “nothing bad comes up.”  Frankly, your references could be the difference in a competitive hiring environment.  How you manage that process is critical.  Good luck